Location: Food and Feed Safety Research
Title: Non-aflatoxigenic Aspergillus flavus to prevent aflatoxin contamination in crops: advantages and limitations Author
Submitted to: Frontiers in Microbiology
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: January 23, 2014
Publication Date: February 10, 2014
Citation: Ehrlich, K. 2014. Non-aflatoxigenic Aspergillus flavus to prevent aflatoxin contamination in crops: advantages and limitations. Frontiers in Microbiology. 5(50):1-9. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00050. Technical Abstract: Aspergillus flavus is a diverse assemblage of strains that include aflatoxin-producing and non-toxigenic strains with cosmopolitan distribution. The most promising strategy currently being used to reduce preharvest contamination of crops with aflatoxin is to introduce non-aflatoxin (biocontrol) A. flavus into the crop environment. Whether or not introduction of biocontrol strains into agricultural fields is enough to reduce aflatoxin contamination to levels required for acceptance of the contaminated food as fit for consumption is still unknown. There is no question that biocontrol strains are able to reduce the size of the populations of aflatoxin-producing strains but the available data suggests that at most only a 4- to 5-fold reduction in aflatoxin contamination is achieved. There are many challenges facing this strategy that are both short term and long term. First, the population biology of A. flavus is not well understood due in part to A. flavus’s diversity, its ability to form heterokaryotic reproductive forms, and its unknown ability to survive for prolonged periods after application. Second, biocontrol strains must be selected that are suitable for the environment, the type of crop, and the soil into which they will be introduced. Third, there is a need to guard against inadvertent introduction of A. flavus strains that could impose an additional burden on food safety and food quality, and fourth, with global warming and resultant changes in the soil nutrients and concomitant microbiome populations, the biocontrol strategy must be sufficiently flexible to adapt to such changes. Understanding genetic variation within strains of A. flavus is important for developing a robust biocontrol strategy and it is unlikely that a “one size fits all” strategy will work for preharvest aflatoxin reduction.